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Final Fantasy X

Traditional RPG
Final Fantasy
  • December 17, 2001
  • July 19, 2001
  • May 24, 2002
A 270 total ratings
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Of trials and tributes

A Final Fantasy X review Author: Paul Le Published: May 31, 2002
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Yet another evolutionary step in the history of Final Fantasy? Naturally. And, as the culmination of a series' storied legacy, Final Fantasy X is the game its immediate predecessor tries to be. As self-referential as Final Fantasy IX is, many of its transparent attempts at eliciting nostalgia are not only superficial in nature (consisting mainly of names and symbols) but, in some cases, also taken to a ridiculous extreme (play the game to find out).

Although a worthy part of the series for its charming, whimsical narrative, FFIX is coated with a saccharine, fairy-tale gloss that gives the impression of pandering to an indefinite old-school sentiment. But while FFIX is easily perceived as a nod solely to the pre-1996 era, Final Fantasy X is arguably a nod to the essence of both past and present, a superbly crafted, balanced "tribute" handled with considerable subtlety. For example, while FFIX is largely a retread in terms of gameplay, offering nothing compelling in the way of new features, FFX is a perfect example of the developers' penchant for refinement and a little inventiveness, a trademark of the series, while adapting the best gameplay features from previous games.
Dispensing with the irrelevant Active Time Battle system (a feature of every FF since Final Fantasy IV), FFX boasts a turn-based system reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, introducing an element of tactics traditionally lacking in FF battles. Without the time lag associated with ATB gauges being filled, battles unfold much more smoothly. While being able to anticipate enemy turns and react accordingly is a welcome feature, this is also complemented by the ability to substitute at will (without the loss of a turn) inactive party members into the three-member active battle party. In practice, it allows for--and encourages--greater control over a battle's outcome and the use of all available party members in any one battle, as each character is tailored toward a specific strength. There is no excuse for characters falling into disuse.
Each character's uniqueness in battle is tied to his or her Overdrive, a hybrid of the Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII versions of the Limit Break. Filled Overdrive meters may be carried over into future battles (unlike Trance meters in FFIX), and most Overdrives require some form of controller input to obtain the maximum effect. Also, Overdrive meters may now be filled according to parameters different from the amount of damage received. For instance, a character's Overdrive meter could be filled based on the amount of damage his compatriots sustain.
That is not all, as the summoned monsters, called Aeons this time around, even have their own Overdrives; when summoned to battle, Aeons are not merely glorified spells. Instead, Aeons replace the entire party and act as a single, controllable combatant. Furthermore, the Aeons' power is directly related to that of their summoner, and Aeons further increase their power and the number of abilities at their disposal by being fed items. Overall, the new battle-related features introduce more possibilities and make the random battles significantly more enjoyable (less monotonous by implication) than they have ever been.
Let me get this straight: Tidus doesn't rhyme with "Midas"?

Items are also integral to FFX's equipment-customizing system, reminiscent of FFVII's weapon remodeling and FFIX's equipment synthesis features. FFX's system is more fleshed out than either of its predecessors. Different items imbue equipment with different "indirect" abilities (or support abilities) that are automatically applied in battle, such as elemental attributes or protective statuses, allowing for limitless ability combinations (in theory). Each piece of equipment may have up to four slots for abilities. (Abilities, however, cannot be removed; they are permanent.) Equipment in FFX only comes with support abilities; there are no absolute statistical bonuses as in previous games. Now, equipment is only as effective as the abilities it possesses. Successful equipment management requires using weapons and armor with abilities appropriate for the battle situation at hand, rather than simply equipping the most powerful equipment at any given time. Fortunately, equipment and armor may now be changed in battle (as in Final Fantasy Tactics), allowing for even more flexibility.
All of the aforementioned gameplay elements, however, are secondary to the Sphere Grid system, which governs the "direct" (or action) ability set. Addition by subtraction, too, is also a feature of the latest ability system. Drawing from elements of the different ability-based systems seen throughout the series, the Sphere system does away with conventional experience-based levels (Final Fantasy II) and the associated statistical increases, relying instead on Sphere Levels based on Ability Points (AP).
The Sphere Grid system is both a simplification and a compromise, appearing to satisfy both sides of the "customizability in Final Fantasy" debate. Sphere Levels are the unit of currency required for characters to move on the intricate, vast Sphere Grid, which is common to all characters and is replete with a variety of nodes (activated using different types of Spheres) that correspond to action abilities (magic, skills, etc.) or statistical bonuses (strength, speed, HP, etc.).
Although every character can theoretically clear the entire Sphere Grid, each character is assigned to a section of that corresponds to the character's "specialty" (or "job" path, as in FFIV and FFIX). For example, one path emphasizes magic power (and MP growth) and features most of the black magic, whereas another path emphasizes physical strength and battle endurance (high HP). Each path or section is cordoned off by different levels of strategically placed Sphere Locks, which must be removed for characters to diverge from their "predetermined" paths. In this way, the Sphere Grid somewhat mimics the limitations imposed by the job/ability system of Final Fantasy V; a character may stray from his natural "job" to acquire abilities of a different job, potentially at the cost of maximizing his full potential in his natural job. Furthermore, access to the most powerful abilities is also blocked by Sphere Locks that can only be opened later in the game. Thus, the Sphere Grid system effectively maintains gameplay balance for most of the game, preserving the in-battle individuality of every character while allowing the possibility of character customization within its framework.
On second thought, I'd rather fight six regenerative blobs.

The linearity of the Sphere Grid mirrors that of the game itself. While FFX progresses strictly in a linear fashion with little backtracking for most of the game, ultimately complete freedom is granted toward the end to explore all of Spira. The world of Spira is "unified," an interconnected world similar to Zelda, rather than a bunch of locations situated on a world map. (In fact, FFX boasts some brainteasers in various temples that might remind players of Zelda.) The linearity, more importantly, propels the plot, giving it a sense of urgency and inevitability that has been distressingly absent from recent FFs.
It helps that FFX is narrated (in parts) from the perspective of the main character, Tidus, who reflects on events as though they have already transpired. This is a novelty (for a FF) that further contributes, fittingly, to the game's all-around retrospective feel. Tidus, a talented Blitzball player and resident of the futuristic city Zanarkand, finds himself suddenly transported--by a mysterious, insidious force called "Sin"--to the tropical world of Spira, where his Zanarkand has been in ruins for over a millennium. The terrifying, unstoppable Sin has wrought an endless cycle of misery and death upon the inhabitants of Spira, and Tidus accompanies Yuna, a summoner, on an arduous pilgrimage to break the cycle for good.
While one might expect the game to lean heavily on the "sport as metaphor for life" theme (considering Tidus' forte), the plot instead relies primarily upon the theme of "the journey" (both physical and spiritual) and wisely gives the sport theme a backseat (although it is tastefully done when it is brought to the forefront). Again, the linearity of the game allows FFX to feel like a true journey where the only choice is to move forward. The "summoning" element, merely consigned to the background in VI, VIII, and IX, is fully integrated into the plot, contributing to a fully realized world tinged with the mystique of the Aeons. Even though death and loss are poignant themes that figure prominently in FFX, they are offset by a pervading message of hope. Furthermore, character development is as rich as Final Fantasy has ever seen (character interaction, in particular, is present from beginning to end), and the plot flows naturally, gradually unfurled rather than being delivered in abrupt chunks or dragging for extended stretches. Every character, from the grizzled, uncompromising Auron to the furtive, yet poised Yuna, is memorable and endearing. There is nothing necessarily earth-shattering about the plot (think about the similarities between FFIX and FFX), but its relative simplicity is arguably its greatest strength. The end result is a warmly familiar, emotionally touching, and exceptionally well-paced story.
The narrative is bolstered by the tandem of the highly touted "Facial Animation System" and the introduction of voice acting to Final Fantasy. Clear, animated facial expressions, in stark contrast to the expressionless, blurry mugs seen through the PS1 era, aid immeasurably in fleshing out the characters' identities. Also, the bodily movements, although still somewhat exaggerated, are more fluid and have a greater range. The voice acting could have been potential source of consternation considering the fact that the English dub is, quite simply, a replacement for the voice acting based on the original Japanese script. There is no doubt that the superb translation helps. But the voice acting is, overall, surprisingly well executed, even though there are moments when it is difficult not to cringe at the sometimes shrill voice of Tidus or the stilted voice of Yuna, the main sources of discontent with the voice acting.
I see a hot mommy.
Hot mommy-to-be. SIGH.

It is easy to look past the deficiencies in the voice acting when the rest of the game shines so brilliantly, especially the graphics. Quite simply, FFX's visual splendor, with the Facial Animation System as its zenith, highlights the severe limitations of the PS1 hardware. The gorgeous, vibrant in-game graphics boast marvelous animation (especially the Aeons and monsters, or "fiends" as they are called in FFX) and intricate detail (the hair!). The quality of the cut-scenes almost makes FMV a superfluous element. Not quite, as there are plenty of high-resolution video clips interspersed throughout the game. Tetsuya Nomura contributes a slew of quirky, colorful character designs that are wonderfully rendered, and FFX features lovely pre-rendered backgrounds only as a supplement to the stunning, fully polygonal environments that comprise Spira.
Even though all appears fine on the visual front (an understatement), the advent of a musical composition by committee for FFX may be a clear admission on the part of Nobuo Uematsu that he is creatively taxed after going the solo route for so long. No matter. The contributions of up-and-coming composers Junya Nakano (Dewprism) and Masashi Hamauzu (SaGa Frontier 2) inject a refreshingly energetic, atmospheric flavor into the overall score, a perfect complement to the familiarity of Uematsu, who proves he still has a trick or two up his sleeve with the uncharacteristic, Rob Zombie-like "Another World."
Finally, no post-SNES Final Fantasy is complete without an array of substantial diversions. FFX avoids inane (yet addictive) card games in favor an even more inane (yet addictive) Blitzball (not only an important aspect of the plot but also a mini-game), which may described as a combination of underwater soccer and water polo (complete with league and tournament play) with an inexplicable emphasis on statistical chance. Also of note is an even more time-consuming (but more gratifying) monster-capturing quest, which opens up an assortment of fights with special monsters and provides a welcome challenge for die-hard completists (it even approaches the level of acquiring the Adamant Armor in FFIV). Furthermore, FFX offers a secret enemy-infested dungeon crawl with no save points and an ominous, dark secret, a playful acknowledgment of the tedious nature of Final Fantasy gameplay in the NES era.
In light of the radical direction the series appears to be taking, with an online multiplayer venture and a Yasumi Matsuno-directed project in the foreseeable future (indeed, the series has felt the obvious gameplay influences of FFT since its release), Final Fantasy X proves to be a most fitting "conclusion" to the series as we know it. FFX evokes the past as much it hints at the potential future - a thorough last hurrah and a true delight. It's hard to imagine a more fitting testament to the series as a whole.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Final Fantasy X is arguably the most polished and most complete Final Fantasy yet. That alone surely places FFX among the greatest in the series to date."
A dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 270 ratings) | Rate it Now
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